Title: The Lady and Her Dragons
Pairing: (Poly/Multiple) Miranda / Andy / Cruella
Rating: M, NC17, NSFW
Summary: Inclement weather and a case of the flu result in big changes and big revelations. Andrea Sachs finds out her universe is more magical and larger than she ever thought and some things are not what they seem.
Words: Current Status is BETA AND UNFINISHED!!!
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, which pretty well guarantees that “ownership,” of the some of the characters belongs to others (Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox) and and that this work is entirely based on affection. This is not-for-profit, but for praise or at least enjoyment.
Beta Readers: Thank yous go to - Melanacious, LadyDragonstorm, Shesgottaread, Llachlan and Bonnie - my extraordinary friends.
A/N - This is a “get ‘em together” story.
A/N - This fiction likely draws from several sources for inspiration - it mostly follows TDWP movie canon as a starting point, however. It is set one year after Paris.
A/N - I hereby label this story AU. It is a fantasy universe with magic, lots and lots of unmistakable magic *stamp* AU *endstamp*
A/N - This story may involve appendages and physical transformations and happy bits connecting. If phallai offend, perhaps this story is not for you. *stamp* CRACKFIC *endstamp*
A/N - Plural/Poly relationships happen to be one of my favorite playgrounds. This fiction enters that territory and really gets digging in it. *stamp* POLYAMORY *endstamp*
A/N - This story has Dragons. Beware the Dragons. *stamp* MAYHEM! *endstamp*
A/N - I have decided, just for my sanity, that family and really good friend names shall remain generally consistent. Thus, Andy’s father’s is Richard and her mother is CeCe, etc. This will go for Miranda’s family if they ever reveal themselves. The family rule, shall remain consistent across the DWP stories. Though you may see them behaving differently according to their different realities, I shall make some effort to keep characterizations consistent also.
A/N - This story has has big dollops of angst, but it ends well.
A/N - This story started because of Melanacious’ “Between Two Devils,” who introduced a third and most unexpectedly delightful option. I started writing Prada fic because of her. You might thank her for the On a... series, because, technically, she started it...
LJ Tags: all: fiction, user: bearblue, rating: nc-17, pairing: andy/miranda, pairing: miranda/andy/cruella, pairing: polyamory, status: completed, genre: romance
TDWP: The Lady and Her Dragons Chapter 1
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Image by LBC
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Song: Black and Gold - Sam Sparrow
Imzadi’s The Lady and Her Dragons Video:
----- TDWP -----
The sky loomed; menaced. Dark gray clouds piled high and deep, hid the brighter ice-blue sky from view. Frigid bursts of wind strongly brought the awareness that inclement weather, the kind that had forecasters scrambling to warn everyone about the need to stay indoors, and forced the moisture in the air to become instant swirling puffs of snow, was here. It was only going to get worse. Grocery and convenience stores were packed with last minute shoppers seeking supplies in preparation for the onslaught. Pedestrians and cars hurried. People wanted to go home before it really hit. Past years’ winter storms were slated to be eclipsed by this year’s blizzard.
Andrea Sachs, Andy to her friends, was a tall, limber, curvaceous in all the right places, brown-haired, brown-eyed, well-educated journalist from Ohio. She had been working for The New York Mirror for nearly a year and freelanced with other magazines and papers to supplement her income. She had cut short previous employment with a famous fashion magazine, Runway, the experience from which she had profited. The severance had been absolutely necessary, if somewhat unprofessional. She took no pride in leaving the way that she had, though she knew there were some who took pleasure in the event and others who hated her. It was odd to be modestly famous for leaving a work environment successfully and abruptly, but the circumstances had been unique. One did not just quit Runway and expect to have a job in publishing after. However, for once, the Dragon Miranda had let one go. She had even provided a backhanded recommendation. This did not change the fact the decision Andrea made was one she still experienced deep angst over, and ultimately the reasons for her quitting were private and not something she spoke about.
Andrea had lived through snow storms before. Cincinnati was not exactly immune to blizzardy events. However, she had never been through one in the Big Apple and had really been looking forward to the experience. The young woman happened to really like winter. It was cool and always distinct from other seasons, with a chance for adventure and awesome holidays. Actually she liked all the seasons, most days. She was just that kind of person.
Today, however,her joy in nature’s power was not its usual enthralling encounter. Her normal zest for life, already a little less zestful due to those past events, was hampered further by an urgent desire to lay down and curl up into a ball of misery. She had been ignoring that desire since she awakened feeling a little too warm and achy, with the added non-benefit of a headache and the dread beginnings of a scratchy throat. Over the past year she had mastered the means of “being happy anyway,” despite other emotional pressures. It had been a necessity. Though she definitely had lingering feelings, going to work was one of her means of coping. It did not matter that she might not be processing well enough to adequately determine whether it was a good idea in the first place. Some things simply needed doing.
Andrea went through a litany of defensive wellness thoughts, taught to her by a mother who believed in the power of affirmations, and then swallowed a handful of over-the-counter remedies in the hopes that any sense of illness was a passing thing. However, in her job she came into contact with a lot of different people in various states of well-being and she knew it was entirely possible that a random cough from a random stranger might have taken her down. “Good thoughts, Andy. Healthy thoughts,” she said to the mirror while she applied her makeup. The words helped boost her mood, but the makeup did more to disguise the fatigue.
She caught a cab instead of taking her usual subway ride. She did not feel like dealing with the stress of crowds and thought the longer underground trip might blur her thinking too much. She might not feel on top, but she did want to do her best, even if she did feel a little ickier than normal. It was worth the money to ensure it.
At work she had managed to smile at her coworkers while avoiding the usual chitchat and had gotten straight to business. The article she worked on was taking on a slow, but cohesive shape and she thought that she might be able actually make it through. Maybe. As the morning progressed she could feel herself becoming warmer and her eyes had begun to start to burn in that certain way. Worse, the small breakfast she had managed to choke down was disagreeing with her. She glanced at the time and bulled on stubbornly, even though her focus was clearly shot. Andrea figured that she might check the weather soon and perhaps see if she could go home a little early.
Her boss, Mr. Greg Hill, a very nice, if harried man, passed by her desk on some errand and glanced in her direction. He paused a moment, took a little longer to assess and said, “Andy, you look green.” He then gazed around the office. People had been calling in or leaving early the whole morning. He glanced at a window, noting the clouds were even darker and heavier than before. “I think you ought to head home.”
“But the article. It’s coming due and I finally have most of the pieces. All of them, I think. It won’t take long.” Actually, she probably should have said, ‘It shouldn’t be taking this long.’ The pace of her work today had been abysmal, comparatively speaking. A spasm of memory expanded the thought to ‘...glacial,’ and her lips had quirked in humor, despite herself. She could even remember the tone of voice. She did not have a chance to linger in the memory, a good thing given past experience when memories of a certain ex-boss intruded, before the editor replied.
“I applaud your work ethic, however, that can be written at home. If you must. But...” his voice had trailed off. Then he smiled. “I have to be here, and you don’t. The project you’re working on isn’t going away and you don’t look like yourself. Besides, no one wants to share what you might have right now. Let’s change the due date to a week from now. Just to be sure.”
“I might not have anything. It could have been something I ate.” Even as she said the words she knew she sounded more raspy than normal and she swallowed against mild pain. The analgesic had worn off and she had yet to take another dose. She had been waiting to eat, but now the thought of food was entirely unappealing.
He smiled kindly, “Uh-huh. Go on, Andy. Pack it up. Take it home.” He then grinned a little more. “In fact, as soon as you are in the elevator, I’m wiping everything down.”
“Gee. Thanks. I’m medicated to my eyeballs. I’m not drippy or anything.” Then she sniffled. “Crap.”
----- TDWP -----
Timing is everything. Getting the timing of her endeavors perfect was something that Miranda Priestly had, for the most part, mastered; timing in revenge, timing in publishing, timing in fashion. She could not claim perfect timing in love, but she did try. It simply did not ever work out quite the way she planned - or hoped. The divorce, now final and forever, had been almost painless once it was done.
Miranda was famous for several reasons. She was a fashion icon; known to be demanding, possessing a keen perception, and hyper-intelligent. Her magazine was one of the foremost, her office in Elias-Clark one of the most important. Worlds and lives moved at her whim. She was gorgeous, unique enough to stand out from the crowd, tall enough to be above average, and shapely. She wore clothes tailored and designed just for her, sometimes bleeding edge, but most often leaning towards classic with her own distinctive style. Her blue eyes were known for their infinite shades, her mouth for its revelation of mood or opinion. Her hair was almost as famous as she was, white-silver, glimmering and healthy, styled short for efficiency, but not too short. She had been born with hair so white it glinted gold and silver in the right light, but once she hit thirty, she dyed it to make it appear as if she had silvered early. It had been an effective trick and she kept the look, taking advantage of the authority it seemed to immediately generate upon others in her proximity. As no one ever asked the how or the why it happened, she did not illuminate.
Someone had once joked that the cause had been her children. Miranda Priestly, not one to be trifled with at any time, had earned the sobriquet Dragon Lady for a reason. It was only common sense that her children were out-of-bounds for the media. That person, no longer involved in any form of publishing, now worked at some strip-mall in a small town in a state very far from New York.
The combination of power and beauty was an intoxicant to many, as evidenced by love affairs and two marriages. Perhaps the knowledge that she could conjure a lover to her side, almost at will, did ease some heartache. It was not a panacea. Few resisted her. Fewer still dared bridge the gap between her professional and personal life; which was just the way Miranda liked it. She had allies. Yes. But also friends, though some might not believe it. They were select and treasured. Right now she was missing one of her friends mightily.
It was not the first time she wished she could simply call Nigel, who at least understood her vision. He, however, had moved on to bigger and better things and was doing well. She did not wish to bother him with her petty problems just yet. She did not begrudge him. They had worked out the aftermath of Paris quickly. He trusted her to make it right and she had. She wished others had that kind of trust.
With a sniff of disdain, Miranda glanced down at the so far meager offerings for a future edition of her magazine and scowled carefully, beautifully. While there was still time to generate good ideas, it was no excuse for her art department to slack. She expected better. More.
She was very aware that they were currently short-staffed, due to the weather, but honestly. Who expected her to accept this tripe? Fortunately, she had yet to send away the new girl. “Emily, you will come take this atrocity off of my desk and return it to the art department. Find whoever is still there and tell them to improve this by noon tomorrow. I will accept an electronic edition, given the circumstances. That’s all.”
The model-thin, youthful blond who scurried into Miranda’s office upon her summons bore little resemblance to a certain previous employee, which had been a deliberate choice on the editor-in-chief’s part. Miranda had been through five other assistants, also vastly different and infinitely more incompetent, before finally settling on this one. No one had exactly filled the position as perfectly, but Marie had become passable at doing her job and was almost at the point of hearing her name fall from Miranda’s lips; not quite yet, but soon. If things went well. The real Emily was already safely away, no doubt snuggling with Serena at their abode. Leaving early was one of the perks of being the longer-term employee.
Marie snatched the mock-ups off of Miranda’s desk, started to leave the office, then hesitated.
“What?” Miranda snapped.
“The phone...,” the assistant’s voice trailed off without quite hitting the pitch of a whine.
Miranda lifted a hand, vaguely waving. She looked up at Marie, who still hesitated. Miranda tilted her glasses down and gazed at the young woman as if she were an imbecile. “I will handle it until such time as you return.” Then her lips thinned in warning. “Return quickly.”
Marie barely avoided a curtsy, instead wandering into a bobble of motion that might have been a bow if it had been executed properly, before hastily exiting. Miranda shook her head and picked up the next item to be dealt with. She turned in her seat, glancing out the window at the gathering storm, gauging. She had no desire to be stuck in the office and would leave very soon, she thought. She glanced down at yet another memo from accounting detailing current budget status and began plotting her next move. Despite tiresome complaints from Irv, she did, in fact, make the attempt to stay within the preferred amount, but art was art and fashion was fashion. Some things were worth the price.
The phone rang. Miranda turned herself toward her desk and arched a brow, considering whether she really wanted to answer the insistent summons or not. It was, after all, her option. Then it occurred to her that one of her daughters or their school might be trying to contact her. Cara was supposed to pick them up before the onslaught, but one never knew. She lifted the handset.
She was greeted by a long pause and thought she detected a faint swallow and a clearing of the throat. The only reason Miranda did not demand an answer today, was that she did not know to whom she might be speaking. It did not do to unnecessarily offend. On the other hand...
Before she could really get a head of steam going about the matter, a reply was finally forthcoming, if a touch raspy.
“Nelson, from International Elegance, is on the line and I couldn't figure out how to flash this damn thing forward. Then I remembered I don’t have flash forward on my cell phone.”
Miranda straightened in her chair and spoke in disbelief, “Andrea?” The casualness of the introduction was not so much a shock as the person to whom she thought she was speaking. Andrea’s calls, if there had ever been any, never got through.
“Yeah.” Another pause and swallow stalled the discussion.
“Perhaps,” Miranda said, “there might be an effort to explain.” Yes. Please do explain. So much had been left unsaid.
However, there was no explanation forthcoming; just a sigh and a fitful, “Conference call for Miranda Priestly. You all go on and talk. Try not to lose the connection. I’m gonna lay back down now.” Miranda heard the sound of a semi-metallic object being placed on a solid surface, the squeak of springs and rustling of covers followed by another sigh.
“Well,” Miranda murmured softly.
“Sorry to inconvenience your girl, Miranda,” said Nelson genially. A frisson traveled up Miranda’s spine and she felt breathless for a moment. Nelson was oblivious, caught up in the conversation he thought he was having, “... but I’m in the forsaken wilderness and hers was the only working number my assistant could come up with. You know me, adventuring where others fear to tread. I think you’ll find it a good thing.”
“Mm. At least you got through,” Miranda offered pleasantly as she worked to immediately pull her senses and responses in line. She was a master at doing so, but still was supremely glad that no one had been near her office to witness her earlier astonishment.
“No doubt. Anyhow, I’m calling because I have just enlisted a new designer on our staff, a lovely Londoner with such an interesting vision. A young lady named Anita, and I wanted to get your opinion.”
Miranda arched her brow. “London is hardly the wilderness.”
“Ah, I did not say I found her in London. You see, we’re in South America right now. Caught her on her honeymoon. Recently divorced, if you will, from another design firm. You might have heard of it. House of De Vil.”
Miranda’s eyebrows rose to new heights. “House of De Vil!” An unbidden snarl curled her lip. She had had previous encounters, none-too-friendly, with House De Vil. Their prince was no one she liked, but she faked a smile for social niceties sake. It had been awhile, but this was one stone of payment to be rendered she still carried in her heart.
“Yes, well, apparently there was a small falling out with her old boss. We all know how that is, heh. I’ve been on the sharp end with DeVil, ouch. But I hate to see young talent go to waste. She can’t work in England right now. We do have a subsidiary in France we can use, but lately I’ve really wanted to focus more on the Americas. I was thinking, perhaps, you might have some words of wisdom.”
“Perhaps. Carry on.”
“Excellent...” Miranda listened as Nelson began talking, taking in everything he was saying. She was also, however, listening to other, more subtle noises; the sound of muffled coughing, a soft groan, a shift of covers, as if someone were trying to settle comfortably. Miranda’s hearing was always acute, but she was attuned to such noises because she had experience with her daughters. She understood immediately Andrea’s choices and wondered at the bravery it took to call the Dragon anyway.
Nelson was a man of ideas and they spilled out of him like gold from a pot, so Miranda did not cut him off as she first intended. She so missed that kind of discussion. The conversation extended long enough for Marie to return and take other calls in the meantime. It was also long enough for the soft sound of Andrea’s very light and rhythmical snore to counterpoint Nelson’s exuberance. Miranda turned to look at the dismal clouds and listened patiently, knowing that he would eventually wind down. Then, when it seemed time, she said, “All, excellent points, Nelson,” proving she had been paying attention, “Regarding your Anita, send me samples, digital and physical. I wish to see this new artist’s work. I will then be able to give you a more informed idea as to the best launching ground. If she is as good as you say, we shall ensure that House of De Vil won’t lay a finger on her.”
“Excellent. Will get it to you. Hey, thank... what was it...”
“Yeah, thank Andrea for me. I’d heard rumors you two had a falling out, but obviously you’ve kissed and made up. Which is excellent timing for me. She was a lifesaver. At least my assistant thinks so. I’ll make sure Mona sends her something nice to make up for the call.”
“That won’t be necessary...”
“Oh, I already know you’ll cover the cost. Least you can do for international shouts, eh. This has nothing to do with necessary, just a gesture so she’ll take my call again when I need to get a hold of you. I mean, she’s obviously dying and unlike everyone else, her call went straight to you and not your gatekeepers. I can’t remember a time when that’s happened. So, naturally this means she’s a keeper. Gotta take care of your lady, eh.” Nelson chuckled on the other end, which Miranda immediately translated it as an awareness. He had meant what he said earlier. He thought Andrea was her girl. Not her child. Not her assistant.
No doubt he would praise his assistant for her connections...
Miranda tried to think of a way to correct the impression, but Nelson was carrying on as usual. “Tell Andrea I said to get better. See you later.”
The phone on his end clicked off. Miranda could still hear Andrea in the background, sleeping. She listened for a few moments more, considering. Then she turned and laid the handset gently in the cradle.
“Emily,” she said, with her usual imperiousness, “Get me Roy.”
----- TDWP -----
The chauffeur had been one of Miranda’s constants; loyal, reliable through almost all things, especially bad weather. He navigated through cities and countries as if he were born to it; no doubt with the help of GPS, but also with abundant natural skill and talent. It was something Miranda appreciated about him. They arrived in good time, always. The Mercedes slid gracefully to a stop just outside a grey-stone apartment building. It was beginning to snow in earnest.
He glanced at her from the rear-view mirror, not quite waiting. He had been there during the devastation, had known a little of the private cost of Andrea’s leave-taking. He did not say, ‘Are you sure.’ Though Miranda could tell he wanted to.
She nodded once, but made no other motion. Someone had to stay with the vehicle.
----- TDWP -----
Roy made his way to the building, planning strategies for entering, since he doubted Andy would simply let him in. Then he realized he had stepped into mild chaos. People were coming in and out of the apartment building in haste. He only had to step through before the door closed. He had expected it to be warmer.
Something in his expression must have indicated his thoughts, as a passerby said, with no little disgust, “Heater’s down. They say a couple of hours. But who really knows with this weather. I’m off to get me some space heaters and a ton of blankets. You probably ought to get some too. Just in case”
Roy tapped his hat, acknowledging the tip, grateful to be mistaken for just another bloke. He hoped Miranda was alright, but he had left the engine on and locked the doors. He had a key. She could defend herself if she needed. She, of all people, knew life was sometimes uncivilized.
He hurried to the elevator and hoped that, at least, was working.
----- TDWP -----
Andrea forced herself to stand, then wobbled toward the door. “Stop that racket,” she attempted to say. The pounding on the door only added to her pain. The need rasped out much more feebly than she intended; a pitiful single word. “Stop.” Of course, there was no possible way she had been heard, yet there was a pause anyway.
Andrea shivered, feeling both hot and cold in her t-shirt and pajama bottoms, and laid her hand on the door frame for support before she peered blearily through the peephole. Then she gaped, like a fish, as she realized who she was looking at. She was startled a little when the knock happened again. She slid her glance sideways, at her locks. They would hold, she was almost sure, but if Roy was here it was probably for a reason. Maybe a good one. Most likely for a Miranda one. He didn’t look happy.
She wasn’t entirely sure she was up to it, but neither was she cruel. She owned that she might not be thinking too clearly and that it might not be a good idea, but Roy had some duty that had brought him here. She’d let him perform it; at least enough so he could say he made the attempt. She only wished she’d had a robe, but honestly, she’d never really needed one before.
Mentally girding herself, she began undoing the locks in slow progression. By the time she finished she felt slightly nauseous and winded; such a great combination. She opened the door cautiously. She managed, “Hello, Roy,” and secretly hoped she wouldn’t have to say much more.
The chauffeur started to reply, and paused, as he got a really good look at her. Then, as if he changed his mind, he said exactly what he was going to say before; only somehow different. “I am here on behalf of Miranda Priestly.”
Andrea blinked at him, then took a few steps back and waved him in. “Welcome to plague city,” she said wearily. “What does she want?”
“You.” Andrea’s attention snapped to him. He took his hat in his hands and said, “Let me rephrase that. She has sent me to get you in order to discuss something. I don’t know what.”
“I’m sick. You need to tell her I’m sick.” She flushed, felt drained even as she was trying to say what needed to be said. “She doesn’t want me like this. I mean... I mean...”
“Miranda was most adamant.”
Andrea grimaced and raised a hand in a stop motion. “I get that,” she said, “I know how she is, but I...”
He shifted, “The building’s heat is out.” She stared at him, glanced out a window and then at a far wall. She walked to the thermostat, as he continued to speak. He followed. “Even if you do not feel up to...,” he stumbled to a verbal stop, not wanting to say the thought and then said instead, “You should come. You need to be someplace warm. I can take you.”
“Stupid piece of...,” she said. Then she turned, “I don’t mean you.”
She put one hand on her hip and placed a palm on her forehead. “I so don’t need this.”
“No one does, Andy.”
She glanced at him, with a small spark of her usual good humor and let her hands flop down by her sides. “Okay. Okay. So, I need to relocate. I can find a hotel. Miranda wants to see me. I need to get dressed; freshened up. I need to get some things together. Can you wait?”
“For a few minutes.” He looked around. “Do you wish to have my assistance?”
Any other time she would have definitely said no. “I need,” she pointed vaguely at her laptop. She had a sense of a dream, of something inevitable and surreal. She must still be sleeping. Yet she couldn’t resist the pattern of the story. “I’ll throw some clothes together.”
“As you wish.”
----- TDWP -----
Miranda spotted Roy with a tiny suitcase and a laptop bag and arched her brow. Andrea was not with him. He strode to the back of the vehicle and stored the baggage away. Then he went back up the steps, just as the door opened to reveal the younger woman. Andrea, cloaked by a long black coat, her long hair back in a pony-tail, stepped carefully out and took Roy’s proffered hand. It was obvious that Andrea had dressed for comfort rather than style. She wore jeans and Doc Martins. It was a sensible choice, one she now carried with a certain panache and grace that had been sorely missing in her early days. Miranda was willing to accept it.
Roy led Andrea to the car. Then, in a surprising move, opened the front passenger door. Andrea started in, looking dreadfully uncomfortable, but trying to be game.
“No,” Miranda said sharply. The young woman startled, and stared at the older woman.
“Miranda. I. But...”
“You will not sit in the front.”
Andrea squinched her eyes shut, as if that would change anything. Then, opened them again and tried for clarity. “Roy said he’d give me a ride. I didn’t know you were in the car or I wouldn’t have come.”
“Because you did not wish to see me.”
“No. Because I’m catchy. I’m pretty sure of it. I didn’t think I was, when I went to work, but then I got sent home. And now the building heat is off and Roy said I couldn’t stay there. I’m medicated so I won’t cough all over the place right now, but who knows how long that will last.” Then she shook her head, knowing she was babbling. It was panic, and she had little control over it. “Besides, you wanted to see me... I... just couldn’t not come... Because, you know. It’s you.” Her voice trailed off and suddenly Andrea just looked tired.
“Regardless. Not in the front.”
“Fine.” She glared briefly at Miranda, and said, “This is a really bad idea.”
Andrea backed out. Roy closed the front door and led the young woman around to the other side. She slid in, wrapping her arms around herself, and leaned her head back against the headrest as Roy shut that door. She appeared flushed, yet at the same time pale, even with the disguise of makeup. Her eyes closed.
Andrea realized her behavior was just this side of rude, but she had already realized she must be dreaming, since Miranda would never want to see her, which made it her dream, right? Then she felt a cool, light pressure on her forehead, a palm of a hand not her own. It felt good, planted a warm curling sensation in her that could not be adequately described. She didn’t open her eyes, but the touch went away anyway and she sighed at the loss.
When the vehicle started moving, Andrea finally decided to join the living, at least temporarily. She looked everywhere except Miranda; at first. “It’s really coming down, isn’t it. The snow, I mean.”
“Yes. It has been for awhile.”
That’s right. No small talk. Yet, she had been answered. She turned in her seat a little, not quite giving up her semi-comfortable position, head still resting on the headrest, so she could gaze at Miranda. Andrea was immediately caught in an assessing azure gaze, but she realized it was not a judgmental one. Miranda, as usual, was gorgeous; maybe a little tired, if you knew what to look for, but all in all... She realized she was soaking in the sight of her ex-boss. She closed her eyes against what might be revealed, knew it was possibly too late.
No sense in hiding then. She looked again, tried to find her balance. “You needed to see me?”
“Do you still have all the numbers?”
Andrea closed her eyes again, this time so she could think, try to parse the possible intentions from the necessity of answering correctly. When she reached a decision based on the most recent event she could remember, another part of the dream, she opened them again, dug into her pocket and fished out her cell phone. She extended it to Miranda. Andrea was only lightly shocked when the older woman took the phone, and began examining the contents. Andrea realized that there was a good chance that her address book was going to be several names shorter. She hadn’t been sure why she’d kept them all, except for a connection to the memories and occasional excellent take-out. She might feel the loss, later, but at the moment she was okay with watching Miranda operate.
“I’m sorry about Paris. I mean, not about what I had to do, because, you know. Had to do it. But... I’m sorry if I hurt you. I hated that part. Couldn’t think of a way past it. Plus, you know, was a little angry. Well, a lot at that time. It wasn’t my best day ever. Not that this one is, either. Well, better because of you, right now, but you’re probably a dream anyhow. Why am I here again?”
Well, damn. At least it wasn’t small talk.
Miranda didn’t immediately answer, but finished what she was doing. She extended the phone back to the younger woman. “Andrea, I have removed my old numbers.”
“And I have updated you with my current.”
“Take the phone, Andrea.”
Their fingers touched. “For a dream, you seem really... solid,” Andrea said as she retrieved the phone. “Nice.”
“Nice?” Miranda’s voice arched in rejection of the concept.
“Well, I mean...” Impulsively Andrea clasped Miranda’s still extended hand with her free one, as she tucked away the phone, “...surprisingly real. For a dream, I mean. It’s good.”
Miranda’s lips quirked into a near-smile. “I see.” She did not pull away immediately, but held the grip, not too tightly. Her thumb brushed across the back of Andrea’s hand. She watched as the younger woman’s shoulders settled; considered her next move.
She was so used to plotting several steps ahead, a necessity in her life, but this moment was not something for which she’d exactly planned. She was not, however, averse to taking advantage of a situation once presented to her, even mild delirium. But first, the offering had been made, however deliriously delivered. Now to act in good faith. “I too sorrow about Paris, and the hurt I inflicted upon you. But not that I did what needed doing.” Truth for truth. It was something she would like to see more of between them.
Andrea’s grip tightened lightly. She did not withdraw, as Miranda half expected her to. The brunette nodded slightly, brown eyes soft. “I knew that. I mean, after a while. I knew it.”
“You didn’t come after me. I mean, you didn’t stop me from working. I mean, you could have. I was prepared to go back to Ohio.”
“Never.” Miranda’s expression became stern.
“Ohio’s not that bad. My parents live there.”
“Then visit. You are not going back there to live, Andrea. Not while I breathe. I will not permit it.”
Andrea felt a flash of amazement, tinged with humor. “You’d black-ball me in Ohio, but not New York.” Miranda’s brow arched. “Wait. You did it? You actually...” She stared at Miranda incredulously and thought of a conversation she’d had with her parents, how they’d encouraged her to stay in New York and make her dream come true. It had not been the conversation she’d expected to have with them. “Oh. My. God. Miranda....”
“Andrea, you don’t belong in Ohio. You belong here.” The ‘with me,’ was implied. Miranda tilted her glasses and looked directly into Andrea’s eyes to seal the point.
“I...” Andrea blinked. “Well. I. You can’t just do that. I mean...” She shook her head vaguely and said, “I wanted to stay anyway. Shouldn’t have, but wanted to.” Then she smiled slowly, as she realized one pertinent fact. She was here with Miranda Priestly; who was holding her hand. “Wow, this is a much better dream than I thought it was going to be.”
“Mm. It seems to be acceptable.” Miranda reached up with her free hand and cupped the younger woman’s face. “Are you thirsty? Do you want to lay down for a little while?”
Andrea licked her lips lightly, testing, and shook her head. Then she said “No. Yes.” Miranda’s hand dropped to Andrea’s shoulder. They shifted together, Andrea following the nonverbal cues, until her head lay on Miranda’s lap. It was shockingly comfortable and Andrea settled in like a cat in perfect sunlight. “I like the coat. It’s soft and the silver compliments you.” She exhaled softly. “You’ve taught me so many colors, Miranda.”
Andrea had not yet released her grip on one of Miranda’s hands, somehow using the older woman’s arm like a throw-cover. Or a hug. Miranda was not opposed, merely amused. She used her other, free hand to pet Andrea’s hair. “I read the Mirror, Andrea. I noticed that you’ve used what you’ve learned. I have been very pleased. I also noticed that you covered Rose’s celebration, but not Paulette’s.”
“Hmm. Oh.” Andrea was still, technically, tracking, but growing drowsier. “That was, what, a couple of weeks ago. I don’t normally do that kind of piece.”
“I know. But still, Rose, not Paulette....”
“You were going to Paulette’s.”
“I went to Paulette’s, yes.”
“Greg wouldn’t let me. Conflict of interest. He thought ...” Andrea squeezed Miranda’s hand gently, released it as lightly, while still not technically letting go.“He thought maybe you’d have a more enjoyable time without me there.”
“I see.” Miranda’s fingertips brushed Andrea’s temple. “We shall have to correct his impression.” Andrea stiffened slightly and the older woman continued, “At a later time, when I can be civil about it.”
“I... Okay, Miranda. He’s a good man.” Andrea relaxed again.
“I am sure he is.” Miranda’s touch stilled. “Speaking of men, the cook ...”
“Are you and he still...”
Andrea snuggled in more. “No. He has a girl in Boston. She’s more his style.”
“Ah. I wish I could say I sorrow at your loss, Andrea.”
Again Miranda’s hand was squeezed lightly. “One of those things.”
“Yes. I suppose. Are you with anyone else?”
“No. Just you.” Andrea opened her eyes and blinked several times. Then breathed, “Oh yeah, a dream. I can say that.”
“As many times as you wish. I enjoy hearing it.”
Miranda smiled at the good-natured humor in Andrea’s response. “Yes.” Then Miranda said, “Why don’t you sleep for a bit. We’ll be home soon.”
“Being catchy. I don’t want to make you sick.”
“You shan’t. I have an iron constitution. I’m a Dragon, remember.”
“A Dragon. Okay. I’ll accept that.” Andrea considered, then had to ask, knowing it would be indulgent if Miranda was willing to play the game of it, “Do Dragons like Andys?”
“This Dragon likes this Andrea.”
“Wow. That’s....” Words failed. How could she express something yearned for, for such a long time, yet felt not-deserved? It was too big an emotion. Tears brimmed and she fought them, but they slid anyway. Even knowing it was a dream, and the words only existed in the hope of her heart, did not stop them. She wiped at her eyes, unable to be subtle about it and too tired from everything else.
Miranda never stopped the soothing strokes through her hair. A gentle head massage that had Andrea’s tired eyes slipping closed. She said, gently, “Sleep, Andrea. We can talk about it again, later.”
As if she had just been waiting for the command, Andrea drifted into the comfort of slumber.
----- TDWP -----
A burst of cold, wet air inevitably caused Andrea to stir. “We’re here,” Miranda said and the young woman’s attention was gained, if not deepened.
“I need to get up.”
“You were always observant, Andrea. Roy will help you.”
Miranda kept still as the brunette pushed away, and out of the car until she was somehow gathered up by the chauffeur into a standing position. Roy said, “I’ll be back for you.”
“Not necessary. Don’t let Andrea stand idly in the wind.”
He nodded an acknowledgment before shutting the door, blocking out winter for a little longer. Miranda proceeded to get out of the car, and paced up the snowy stairs in stilettos with full confidence and agility, nearly beating them to the door. She already had her key out, dangling it once for Roy’s attention, then she opened the door. “Take her to my room. Let Andrea lay down on the bed if she wants to, go get her belongings and set them in here in the foyer. Then you are excused for the evening.” Roy’s brows rose in disbelief, but began efficiently bundling the not quite awake enough to protest Andrea up the stairs.
Miranda paused a few heartbeats to decide what to do next. She inhaled lightly, pausing to take a moment to sense her home and determine if she was first to arrive. She could not hear her children, nor smell a dinner. She started toward the kitchen and pulled her cell phone out of a pocket. Time to make a call to Cara and see if they were on their way.
----- TDWP -----
Andrea woke slowly, lethargically, and in a mild state of confusion. It was not quite dark. Ambient light from a lamp provided gentle illumination. That was not really the confusing part. She had lights. She couldn’t remember turning them on, but that didn’t mean anything. The soft surface of an unfamiliar bed and the realization that she was not alone, however, did provide information that she had difficulty putting together; at first.
Someone was soothingly caressing her back in slow, circular motions and there was a pressure on her right side, one reminiscent of other times when she shared a bed. That let her know someone was with her. Of course, to confirm all this, she would actually need to open her eyes enough to get a good look. A part of her, however, luxuriated in the strange, deep feeling of rightness.
Inevitably, Andrea knew she had to shake off the sleep and wake up. She inhaled, not quite yawning, and, feeling turtle-slow, turned her head. The touch on her back stilled, but did not leave, for which she was grateful. The journalist cracked open her eyes, and realized she was gazing at a shapely hip, one covered by a streamlined, short, black skirt. Andrea’s gaze traveled the sleek outline of the skirt to take in the slope and length of scandalously exquisite legs, all the way down to bare feet with perfectly manicured toenails. Andrea blinked. She knew those legs, had contemplated them for hours in a previous life, but had rarely observed the bare feet. They were something to appreciate, even to linger upon, which she did for a noticeable amount of time.
“Wow,” Andrea managed the breathy compliment, eventually, as she realized she did need to redirect her attention. She raised her gaze back up, slowly retracing up and passed curves she had already visually traveled; enjoying it just as much the second time around. She noted a book on the lap, and set aside the need to know about it, until she reached the torso. She paused at the hemline, where a white silk shirt was tucked neatly into the black skirt, and then let her gaze roam up. She had intended to move faster, but the constraint of location and not-quite-wakefulness slowed her pace to one that forced an ordered appreciation of the journey.
Andrea paused again, at where the collar opened, revealing neck and the hint of breasts, and watched as the other woman breathed lightly. She could easily have gotten stuck there, watching that rhythm forever, but she felt the light pressure of nails on her back. It was not harshly done, merely an attention getter, which caused her to shake off the hypnotic effect and continue her perusal. She had to turn a little on her side though, sliding so she could look up without having to arch too much. The hand on her back now fit comfortably on her waist and Andy finished her visual journey, taking in the expanse of a slim neck, sensuous jawline, delicious mouth, imperial nose, until she finally reached contact with arctic blue eyes. They were far from cold. It took her a moment to pull her focus back, to see the whole, to see the white-silver halo. “Miranda,” she breathed, hardly able to believe she was there, but knowing that there was no other person it could possibly be.
“Andrea,” the other woman greeted her with equanimity, apparently not fazed at all by the length of time it had taken for the younger woman to finally hone in on her. She set the book, a hardback, on the small drawer by the bed, under the lamp and turned her full attention on the brunette.
At any other time previous in Andrea’s life, especially if she had still been working for the editor-in-chief, that attention might have been terrifying. Now she drew comfort in the firmness of the gaze. It made her feel less dizzy. “I’m in your bed,” she said. She had vague memories of being most gently undressed and redressed. “In my PJs.” She looked a moment at her bare arm, only inches away from Miranda and wondered that the mogul had let her stay in such unstylish wear. Yet, she was touched at the same time, that there had been no implicit criticism, no shaking of Andrea’s faith while vulnerable. It was odd behavior, given what she knew about Miranda, and that bore thinking upon. Andrea, however, was in no way up to it yet. She realized she was clutching one of the other woman’s pillows “In your bed,” she reiterated.
“Yes.” Miranda’s touch glided up Andrea’s side and she turned toward the brunette and brushed some of Andy’s hair away from her face. Miranda’s lips pursed, but not in a bad way, just in a considering way. “It’s too bad it couldn’t be under better circumstances.”
Andrea’s breath left her for a moment, but by then she regained a little clarity. “The problem being that, before, it never would have been possible. Which would have been a tragedy.” She realized, as she watched Miranda smile in amusement, that she was still not able to censor her thoughts. She was apparently going to say whatever first came to her head.
Nothing for it now, what was said, was said. One of Andrea’s gifts was that she was practical. She shrugged and turned her attention away from Miranda, only for a moment. “I’m not even sure how this happened.”
“Do you really want me to explain?”
“No.” The younger woman paused, remembering. “I’m still dreaming, aren’t I?”
“Andrea,” Miranda began, then paused. She wanted to assure her that no, she wasn’t dreaming, but she recognized the advantage of the younger woman’s current state. Words could be safely said, revelations could be safely revealed. Many of the hurdles that she could instinctively sense between getting them to this state of openness again, could be eliminated right here and now. So, after a split second of deliberation, the assurance that she had been about to offer, changed. “Are you thirsty?” Her fingers caressed Andy’s face. “You’re still so warm.”
Andrea considered and realized there were other, more pressing matters. “Bathroom?”
Miranda nodded in a particular direction. “That way.”
Andy sat up, realized she was still a little dizzy, but managed to reluctantly slide away from Miranda. She stood up, paused long enough to say, “You let me into your house.”
Miranda did not point out that Andrea had been to her house before. She knew it was different. “Among other things.”
----- TDWP -----
It would have been, had Andrea been more well, and more nervous, very easy to fill the silence, but by the time she had returned out of the bathroom, a small meal with a drink had been set up on a portable table near an easy chair. Miranda met her outside of the bathroom and guided Andrea to the chair. She took one beside it, so they sat near each other, but not quite next to. For a few moments there was friendly quiet between them. Then Andy had a thought and that thought led to an achingly piercing and unusually jealous moment. Andrea had envisioned Miranda and her last husband sitting together.
“I don’t do jealousy,” she said, firmly as if commanding herself to make it so, and was, at the same time, unaware that she had even said it. She deliberately picked up the cloth napkin, which had been laid under the spoon. She intended to unfold it, pulling at the edges with both hands.
“Really?” Miranda asked. Andrea flushed in embarrassment, but couldn’t not answer.
She glanced at Miranda and finally said, “Normally.” She then looked down. “Usually.”
The older woman shifted forward in her seat, her eyes seemed to catch a dangerous spark and her brows drew down speculatively. She motioned with her hand, a small gesture, as if tugging on an invisible line or spinning a tiny spell. “Andrea. Tell me.”
Oddly compelled, the young woman crushed the cloth napkin in her hands, tried not to say anything for a whole ten seconds, and then said it anyway. “When Nate told me that he and Lily were interested in more, I was happy for them. I was thrilled for me.” She looked at Miranda, slightly defiant, expecting a judgment and owning it, “It was wonderful. We were wonderful. We were good together.” She paused, waiting to see what Miranda would do with the information.
Stillness seemed to pool at the older woman’s feet, to draw up her form and surround her. Miranda said nothing, offered nothing, except her attention. She was biding her time and the younger woman felt a shiver of some unnameable awareness tremble through her. It was a heady sensation, not really fear, but a sort of heightened alertness. Andrea’s employment at Runway had tutored her well in utilizing the energy of that sensation, until she had become almost supernatural in the ability to pluck Miranda’s thought or need or desire out of the air. Now that sensation felt almost reversed, as if, this once, it were Miranda who were tugging at a strand within Andrea. She contemplated what to say next, how to say it, and then realized she had already given away the end. Miranda knew the outcome. It was the getting there, which had been missing.
“I don’t know what changed entirely. I mean, I knew what changed with me. One can’t live through you and not be fundamentally altered, no offense.”
Miranda blinked, a little taken aback, but offered no reply. So Andrea continued, “And coming out on the other side, I think, for me, it was a very good thing. I even kind of got that it probably would be, early, after you reamed me about cerulean, of all things. And then Nigel put the rest of the picture, the whole meaning of what it was you were doing, in a framework I could understand. So I embraced that all the way, because once I understood what it could mean, I knew I wanted... I wanted... to take that knowledge and see what could be made of it. And it turned out you were right. Style did matter. Color mattered. Choices mattered. I changed for you, yes. But I changed for me, more. And every day was a new discovery. " She shook her head lightly, in memory. “But I always stayed me.” She laughed. “Actually, I think I became even more me.”
Now she looked directly and fiercely at Miranda, “You know that. You were there, during and at the end; even after the end. Every day. Every night... I ran away, but never escaped you.” Andrea laughed again, softly, a little sadly, and looked away again. “What I did not know, could not know, was that my Nate and Lily were changing greatly too and there was no real how or why that I knew of. It wasn’t obvious, like with me. All they had to do was point to a job and I could see that their arguments were true to some extent. I was different. But they kept up with their challenges and attitudes, even when I told them they were right. I was changing. But life is change. Or so I was taught. I could feel me getting... better. But they didn’t think so. And still, even with their disbelief in me, I thought I was still theirs, until a few weeks before Paris. I could be wrong, but I think that’s when it really ended. Before then I thought we were at least still trying.”
Andrea’s shoulders sunk in despair; defeat. Sorrow. Tears Miranda had seen before, had reveled in on occasion, but this aspect of Andrea wrenched her and broke right through the usual casual amusement of a successful strike. Andrea was offering no apologies and this was no idle chatter.
The young woman crumpled, then uncrumpled the cloth in her hand. Then took up the thread again. “I thought they understood, and they were only being bitchy about things. Yes, there were demands on my time. Yes, I dressed differently. Yes, I worked hard and, the challenges you set me.... My god. Sometimes it was utterly impossible. But I wanted to rise for you. I wanted to be more than just an assistant. I wanted to see if I could excel at something so unlike anything I’d ever done. And pleasing you, even momentarily, that became my art. It wasn’t terror that drove me after the first while, though it did fuel me, sometimes later. It was... something indescribable. An act of creation that I couldn’t quite tame, but could only ride. Lightning. I think you were lightning and I could hear the thunder when you called.”
Miranda blinked and gasped. Here was a gleam of the lyricism that was Andrea. And it shattered and rebuilt Miranda’s perspective of the woman. She had been looking in the wrong place. Not that Andrea’s writing wasn’t strong or that Andrea could not cope with surprises, but the magic, which Miranda had sensed so long ago and, apparently, so misunderstood, was not about newspaper articles or even honing Andrea into the world’s best assistant.
Andrea barrelled on, not at all disturbed by Miranda’s reaction. She was still under the summons and Miranda, despite that brief shift in mental direction, was forced to return - to hear it all - whether she willed it or not; that was a consequence of her choice to tug a reveal from Andrea in this weakened state. One received what one was given. “I thought sure Lily could grasp the idea of it. I know I explained it to her. I thought I had. She’s an artist. I’ve seen her obsess and trust me, when she is gone, she is gone. For days. And it wasn’t just me making a living. Lily had her own job and her art obligations. Her schedule was no easy thing. And Nate, he was the same. That passion was what drew us all together in the first place and it was good glue. But somewhere that connection grew soft, less solid. And, I’ve had time to think on this awhile. A whole year or so... I’ve come to a sort of conclusion. One that I think is correct, but... I could just be shying from a truth. It’s just, I don’t think it was me. I think it was them.
“I mean, Nate too was often away early in the day, gone until late at night, trying to become what he wanted to be. His schedule was as crazy as mine. So why was it a big deal then, that my time was as valuable as theirs? It was understood that we were all busy, that we all had things we took pride in doing, that we would make the time, if and when we could. And we made sure, Miranda, to include our friend Doug, because, you know true friends are rare and need to be nurtured. And he was my friend too. Until he thought he had to make a choice.”
Miranda’s expression tightened, sharpened. Her nails dug into the upholstery of her chair. Her hair moved lightly as if a window had been opened, but the air was still. Andrea continued, oblivious to the energy charging around her, the unexpected need for confession had her full attention.
“Then, one day, they just stopped. They stopped being there, stopped needing me. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t meet with me when I was available. A drink here. A visit there. But it wasn’t the same. One night Nate says to me, that the calls I took, from you, were the relationship I was in. He was so vehement and bitter. Yes, jealous, now that I think of it. He was the one who was jealous. Not me. So odd, since he was the one who started it.” Andrea paused, remembering that cold night; how there was nothing to do, but accept it, and be hurt. “I remember feeling dizzy, shocked. A little afraid. A lot hurt. Not because I did not want it to be true, but because I had not thought of it that way before and I had believed, until right then, there was a limit. A secret number and no more. It was a revelation.” She paused for a long time, but then continued, “I realized it wasn’t a number, it wasn’t a secret formula. It was, as always, the person... or persons...in that particular relationship. In happiness and love, or work, the rules were not the rules I thought I knew or thought I broke.” Andrea chuckled harshly, “They were all my rules and they were for shit. I was undone.”
“I realized that he was right. You had become an integral part of me, of my life. So much so, that I couldn’t even begin to imagine leaving. Even knowing that most of your assistants maybe last a year or two. I felt forever in us. I know that doesn’t sound right, I was only an assistant. But I was not an Emily.” She growled an impossible little growl, one that sent a wave of shivers up Miranda’s spine. “I was never an Emily. Which is why I worked so hard for you to see me. Which, you did and so much for that... I thought that it must be a crush at first, and I thought I could just get through it, but you simply wouldn’t go away. So, I... adapted. I mean, what the hell else could I do? There is and was no ‘us.’” Andrea paused, wanting to desperately to stop the flow of her words, but unable. “What was funny about the whole thing, Miranda, was not that I always took your calls. Of course I did. I wanted and needed to. I never knew what would happen next with you, and I couldn’t resist the fascinating pull of you.” She smiled slightly. “Much. But... what was odd, or maybe not so odd, if someone really knew me... and they should have realized... was that I always took theirs too. I took their calls, Miranda. Every time.” She shrugged, helplessly. “They’d just stopped calling.”
Miranda’s gaze blazed at Andrea’s words and her grip on the armrests of her chair had turned her knuckles white. She was beginning to appreciate the horrid depth of her mistakes in Paris. She had missed signs of Andrea’s pain, had been so caught up in her own, that she had mistaken empathy for pity. And had taken that mistaken assumption and used it as a weapon. More, she felt an intense rage that her Andrea should be hurt in such a way, even as she wallowed in a desperately quiet jealous foment against those who had experienced the young woman’s heart and tossed it away. It was not an emotion that came out of nowhere. She too had a year to gain an understanding, to become more fundamentally aware of her own feelings. She too had dreams.
The younger woman looked at the crumpled cloth in her hands and let it unfold. She smoothed it down, as if trying to brush away the wrinkles. “But that was not what you meant, not what you were asking for. You want to know why I said what I said.” She was tired. And lost.
Miranda whispered, eyes wider than before, as if she were seeing the world from new ground. The words carried a mystical weight and pushed. “Go on, Andrea.”
“I am not even really sure if I have given the right name to it anyway. Maybe jealousy isn’t the word. I know envy isn’t. What I do I know, for darn sure, I have no right to the feeling and no good explanation for why I felt it. But I can give you an example. And maybe you can tell me.” Her gaze slipped toward Miranda and then skittered away. She couldn’t look at the other woman and say what was coming next.
“I remember feeling it at the gala where Stephen chose to show. It was not that everyone wanted you, which, by the way, they so did. It was actually kind of wonderful. Enthralling. I could see why you might vibe to it. Anyone would. And so, I realize now, it wasn’t even that someone else touched you or that you touched them. You may not be touchy-feely, but everyone needs contact... I wished, rather desperately it could be me, but... I knew the boundaries. I was, up to that point, a professional.” Andrea smiled ruefully and Miranda exhaled softly at the beauty of those curved lips.
“No. It was that he, in particular, your Stephen, was the one touching you and able to do so with a freedom I could hardly imagine and utterly longed for. And I knew. Just knew, he really, really shouldn’t have been even in the same room with you. He was unworthy of you...” The cloth shredded with the sudden, unexpected, tightening of her grip, forcing Andrea’s attention away. She stared at her hands in puzzled disbelief and then shrugged.
Miranda’s eyes widened even farther, and she drew in an unsteady, shocked breath.
“That he could lay hands upon you with impunity... I don’t think I can tell you... I have never felt anything like it. Never. I saw Red. No. The darkest of crimson, Miranda. Like blood covering my vision. For whole heartbeats. I saw everything so clearly, so strangely. I knew I couldn’t stay in that frame of mind. I knew I’d do something... crazy. And you needed me not to be crazy. I needed me not to be. So... I fought hard to get past it, I did. I knew you were married. I knew you had a life. I honored that. I did and I do. Truly. So I dug in. Real hard. I dug in and stuck it down, so I could do what you needed me to do. Be who you needed me to be....”
“Oh!” The utterance was softly spoken, barely uttered. What was there to be observed now, had been hidden. Deeply. Powerfully. Hidden. And so stubbornly resisted... Miranda’s shock embraced a new sensation; respect. Her lips quirked in sudden amusement at herself, not that she would have noticed at that time anyway. Not that she wanted to notice. Empires toppled on things missed ... or deliberately avoided. Yes. There had been signs. She had tested Andrea, after all. So very thoroughly. Of course, it was a test for all the wrong things... Looking back, given context, she began to truly see. She drew in a shaky breath, reigned in her first responses. Listened very, very carefully to what was said and left unsaid.
“I still do not understand how I came so instantly to the conclusion that he was not right for you. And maybe he was before. I don’t know. Maybe before he was perfect for you. But not then. Not there. Not in my presence. He... smelled wrong. Wrong!” The word was an animal snarl. Andrea shook her head, trying to clear it, resisting the compelling at last because the emotions were still too sharp, and the reality too unnerving to not sting and shake.
Then, she admitted the thing she thought most awful, most unforgivable. “I was... was glad he pushed for a divorce. I hate saying that. I would never say that to your face. I know it hurt you so deeply and how could I bear to see you suffer? And then, of course, the timing was terrible. And I would have changed that, if I could. I feel awful that I felt that way; feel that way still.” The young woman shook her head like a regretful lion, “But things didn’t turn out so well,anyway, which you already know. I had intended...I don’t know what I intended... How could I have any intentions at all, except to be your Andrea in the only way you would ever let me. And then I wasn’t even that anymore.” Andrea exhaled and then inhaled slowly, whispered painfully. “And by my own choice.”
She grimaced and said, finally, her voice back at her normal cadence. “And yet, now I’m dreaming something so impossible, that I am here, with Miranda, and it’s been kind of a very nice dream, so unexpected. I keep trying to follow the thread and losing it... But here I am and the thought that he was in this room once, had the right to share any time with you, to be with you...it brings me right back to the ballroom and how beautiful you were and how not right he was. And I still don’t understand the why of it. So I can’t tell you this. Not ever. Not any of it. You must never know...” Andrea trembled hard, her voice a whisper. She was nearly pushed beyond what she could bear.
Even in this state, Andrea had an animal awareness that her story might be deemed so very inappropriate and she had no way to take any of it back. She hunched in, instinctively protecting the belly, like a wounded creature. The shreds of the napkin dangled in the tight grip of her hands.
Miranda stood up, feeling shaky herself, and yet walked across that short space and knelt, placing her hands over the younger woman‘s. “Andrea.”
The younger woman grimaced, and refused to look Miranda in the eyes. She did, however, answer the quiet call, despite herself. In this case, old habits betrayed her. “Yes, Miranda.”
Andrea exhaled in a great, shuddering breath. She shivered from head to toe, before falling still and breathing evenly. Miranda gently pried the cloth from her grip. Andrea blinked, confused; feeling displaced. ”What... What just happened?” she breathed, tried to find her bearings.
“Nothing for you to worry about. We may talk about it another time. I think you need to take some nourishment, now."
Andrea smiled, a trifle uneasily, but accepted Miranda’s declaration. She turned her attention to the small repast. It was soup, a chunk of home-made multi-grain bread, lightly buttered, and a tall glass of ginger ale. “This looks good.” Surprisingly good, considering that seemingly moments ago, the thought of food had an opposite effect.
“I think you will find it satisfactory.” Miranda stood up, graceful and at ease.
“Chicken soup? Excellent. I like it."
“I am gratified to hear it, as it is the common cure.”
“So they say. Thank you, Miranda.” She began to eat, enjoying the soothing familiar taste of home cooking. For a brief moment she imagined that it had been made by Miranda, and realized that was improbable. It was just another fanciful thought in a long, long, long line of fanciful thoughts.
Miranda did not reply. Instead she tilted her head as if listening to something just out of range. Andrea hadn’t thought to ask if there was anyone else in the house and decided not to bring up the topic now, just because it suddenly occurred to her.
“I will return soon, Andrea.”
“You may lay down, when you’re finished, if you feel like it.”
“I’m alright here.” What she did not say was that she was afraid she would fall asleep, wake up, and find everything back to the way it was before. She was still convinced she was dreaming, but played along. She’d rather be dreaming and with Miranda, than awake and wishing she was with Miranda. Yes, she decided, this was much better.
Miranda peered at her, then nodded, not necessarily in approval, but in acceptance of Andrea’s choice. She left then, exiting and shutting the door behind her.
The soup really was good. Not that she’d ever actually tasted soup in a dream. “It even tastes like chicken,” she said, in surprise at a weird proof.
----- TDWP -----
Miranda later slid back into the room, holding a largish object in her hand. Andrea was reclining in her seat, eyes closed. The meal was obviously concluded.
Andrea shifted at the sound of the door closing and opened her eyes. “You made her bring the Book.”
Miranda gave her an arch look and took the seat beside Andrea again. She opened the book in her lap and reached over to the nearby light-stand for a stack of Post-its that were obviously there for the purpose. She then liberated a pen from a tiny holder. Then she put her glasses on. Finally, before actually looking at the book, she replied. “I didn’t make the new Emily do anything. It is her job, but in this case, it was also her choice.”
“Miranda, you gotta know, that she didn’t think it was a choice. Unless you gave her another option. I checked the weather on my phone. Apparently it’s really bad out.” Andrea paused, “You know, a blizzard, the kind of weather one can’t change at a whim and is generally bad for normal folk.”
“I could have.” Miranda, turned in her seat and tilted her glasses at Andy. It was time to set a few things in motion.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I could have changed the weather.”
Andrea blinked for a moment, stared, and then grinned, “Oh. Because you’re a Dragon. That’s right.” She waved her hand indicating the space between herself and Miranda, “So we’re going to keep doing this, then?”
“It seems you find amusement in this discussion. At the moment, I can’t provide another distraction, it’s something you need to know, and I was making a point.”
Then she grinned even more, “It’s a pretty obscure point, if you ask me. But, if you, oh mighty Dragon, can change the weather, why didn’t you? I mean, back when you demanded I get you a ride during a hurricane. Seems to me that would have been a good time to exercise that power. I will caveat that as, aside from the fact you were testing me.” Andrea considered a little more, “Or trying to get rid of me.” She looked intently at Miranda, “Were you? Trying to get rid of me.”
Miranda settled back in the chair, taking off her glasses, and letting them dangle in her fingers. “One does not change weather on a whim, Andrea. Not these days. It confuses people. And, there are other factors. Emotions can have effect on weather regardless of how controlled one might be. It is better that the environment already is receptive to change, or it becomes... noticeable.”
Andrea was successfully diverted. “What about that squall that was supposed to happen in Texas last year. They were predicting a huge storm over there and it just sort of,” Andy waved her hand, “... blew over.”
“Not my doing. I was not in Texas.”
“Are you saying someone else was?”
Miranda managed to look disapproving, without that disapproval being directed at Andrea. It was almost as if they were having a serious discussion. “Not one of mine.”
“There are more Dragons than you. And some of those Dragons are yours.”
Miranda arched her brow.
“Of course there are.” Andrea grinned, “But no one as sexy as you.” She paused long enough to look flabbergasted and slapped a hand over her mouth, blushing furiously. “My don’t-say-that button is still not working right, Miranda.”
Miranda offered a predatory grin. “I have been enjoying it.” The blush deepened, and so did Miranda’s smile.
Andrea cleared her throat and looked away for a while, allowing Miranda to examine her profile for a few moments before returning her attention to the Book.
Quiet minutes passed and Andrea tentatively asked, “Are Dragons born or made?”
Miranda finished the note she was jotting, pasted it to the book and then, finally, offered Andrea her attention again. The older woman’s expression was carefully neutral. “Both.”
Andrea nodded, then asked, “Your daughters, then?”
“That would make sense.”
Again, Miranda could not hide her amusement.
“Do the colors have meaning?”
“Some do. Some don’t. Colorations vary so much in our world. Metallics are nobility.”
“So, bronze is like a knight then?”
“That is apt. Yes.”
“Silver is a baron?”
“Hmm. Yes. Close.”
“Gold... a King or a Queen.”
“Variations of gold. And those variations mean something too. One might call them aspects. More, you should know there are types of Kings and Queens in our world. A Queen Dragon is different from a Dragon Queen. A Queen Dragon is the most powerful type of female Dragon, while a Dragon Queen is one half of the ruling couple. The same hold true for King Dragons and Dragon Kings.”
“Ah, I get you.” Andrea cocked her head and looked at Miranda, really looked. “You’re not silver, are you? I mean, it could be easy to make that mistake. But... you’re something else.”
Miranda held very still, and spoke with caution. “What do you think I am, Andrea?”
“You’re a gold.” Andrea thought back, “Like some of your jewelry.”
“You notice my jewelry.”
“I noticed everything about you, Miranda.” Again Andrea blushed. “Shoot.” She didn’t apologize though. She already had. “You’re being surprisingly patient with me, Miranda.”
“One of us has a fever, should be under the covers in bed, but won’t go, and is currently being interesting, despite the flaws of the situation.”
“Oh.” Andrea blinked, then grinned. “Well, when you put it that way.”
“If you don’t mind, however, I do have other things to do.”
“Don’t keep a Dragon waiting.”
“It is unwise.”
“Heh.” Andrea cleared her throat, slightly, then made up her mind. “White gold. You’re a rare mineral Miranda.”
“Metallic, Andrea. And yes, very rare.”
“Will... are Carolyn and Cassidy...”
“They have yet to grow into their color, but they are shading to the red.”
Now Miranda smiled, “Yes. They are beautiful girls aren’t they?”
“Yeah. They’re good kids.”
Miranda smirked, “I shall be sure to tell them you think so.”
Andrea laughed, relaxing for the first time since she had awakened.
----- TDWP -----
“So, Dragons exist,” Andrea murmured drowsily. They lay on the bed, under the covers and side by side. It was a very comfortable bed, giving but not too soft. The covers were plush, sleek and felt good on her overheated skin. She fought the sleep, so the words slipped out, “... and you are one.”
Miranda rolled over on her side, her expression serious, and laid her hand on Andrea’s hip. She gazed a long time at the younger woman, before answering. She did not say maybe or I suppose so. She did not act as if she were playing a game. Andrea returned the gaze just as seriously, not quite at the point of belief, but wanting to listen and be open to whatever Miranda might say. Finally, she provided an answer. “Yes. I believe we’ve established that.”
“Are there other kinds of beings? I mean besides Dragons. Like... I dunno, Elves?”
Andrea blinked, she was so very tired, but now she was interested. “High elves?”
“I played D&D once. Or a few times. They had Drows. Do Drows exist?”
“They are elves, Andrea.”
“Point. Wait. You know what a Drow is.”
“I have been around long enough to learn many things.” Miranda drew Andrea closer, holding her lightly. “What are you trying to ask?”
“What I should be looking for. Good guys. Bad guys. I think, if there is a world with Dragons, that must mean there are things I haven’t been seeing, right? Or it would be in the newspapers. We’d be Harry Potter.”
Miranda smirked, “You did that so well.”
“Well, I had help. But looking back on it, maybe I should have just quit.”
“No. Andrea. Don’t say that.”
“Alright. So. Elves. Dwarves. Flying monkey men.”
“Flying monkey men?”
“Um. I’m not sure where that came from.”
“This is not Oz, Andrea.”
“I find that only just a little reassuring. Oz had some scary ones.”
“So. Since we’re on the topic of scary. Vampires?”
Miranda stilled and said, “Yes. They are not to be trifled with.”
“Do Dragons fear Vampires?”
“No, Andrea, we do not. But neither do we tempt them.”
“They’re pretty tempted about a lot of things though. Like tasty blood. Garlic still bad for them?”
Miranda could not hide her amusement. “No.” She arched a brow. “But know this, Andrea, If a Vampire dared touch you, without my express permission, I would tear them apart. Nothing would be left of them. I would destroy their Nest, so all would know not to touch that which was not theirs.”
The fierceness of Miranda’s words caught Andrea’s breath. Her eyes were so blue, nearly glowing, a light in the dark. How had she not noticed that before. Then she thought, “Wait. What about my express permission?”
“We will discuss it later. After you feel better and you can negotiate in ... confidence.”
Andrea’s hands pressed against Miranda’s shoulders and she pushed back lightly. “You really mean that.”
“Yes. It is only right.”
“But you’ll talk about being a Dragon with me now.”
“You’re more receptive to the idea now. If I waited until you felt better, you’d resist, but now, when you recover, you’ll be more accepting.”
“Oh.” Andrea paused, absorbing that thought. She couldn’t fault the reasoning. Then she had another thought. “You keep saving things for later. But, what if, right now, I said I wanted a kiss. You know, because... because I don’t know when I’ll wake up. Would you consider it? It doesn’t have to be real...”
“Shhh.” Miranda drew Andrea closer and pressed her lips against the younger woman’s forehead. The brunette sighed lightly, enjoying the cooler touch; basking in it. Her eyes closed. Miranda kissed both eyelids gently.
Andrea whispered, “Miranda.”
Then she felt a light pressure on her lips, soft, but firm; lingering. She opened to the kiss, absorbed it. It was balm and connection all at once. She felt the stirrings of a summons, a hint of compulsion to take it further. But Miranda pulled away, with a shaky breath. “Andrea?”
“Go to sleep.”
----- TDWP -----